It’s the night of Dec. 6, 1941, and Cass Phillips and friend Bruce Smithy are winding down the Saturday evening out with two lady pals.
The two men, quite new to adulthood, are Navy radiomen for PBY Catalina seaplanes, which take off and land aquatically and patrol for enemy boats and subs with machine guns, depth charges and bombs.
Before taking the women home, they head to a beach near their base on the east side of the island, Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay. On the sand, maybe 20 yards away, is a group of people of Japanese appearance, celebrating.
“They were having a very riotous party out there — a lot of shooting firecrackers, fireworks of all kinds, lot of laughing, lot of talking,” Phillips — 21 then, 96 today — remembered from his Pensacola home. “And it was more than just a casual meeting, we thought.”